Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Sunday, 20 December 2009

Teacher suspended in prayer row

Olive Jones
Mrs Jones says she was told her actions could be deemed to be bullying

A Christian supply teacher has been suspended from her job teaching ill children at home after offering to pray for a sick pupil.

Olive Jones, 54, from Weston-super-Mare, said the girl had been too poorly for a lesson. The teacher then decided to speak about her belief in miracles.

But the girl's mother said they were not believers and made a complaint.

Mrs Jones, who did not have a formal contract, was told by Oak Hill Short Stay School she would be suspended.

Mrs Jones, who is originally from Llanteg in Pembrokeshire, visited the child at her home on 25 November and said she was told of the decision just hours after the incident.

The part-time maths teacher had worked for the Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service North in Nailsea, near Bristol, for almost five years.

I am amazed that a country with such a strong Christian tradition has become a country where it is hard to speak about your faith
Olive Jones

She said: "If I had done something criminal, I believe the reaction would have been the same.

"It is like a black mark against my name and character when it comes to getting a reference for another job, just because I shared my testimony, as if I committed a criminal act.

"I simply wanted to encourage them to be open to prayer but if they did not want to then I would never force it down their throat."

She said she had been called to her manager's office and told that sharing her faith with a child could be deemed to be bullying.

Mrs Jones added: "I was in complete shock, I was trembling.

"I am amazed that a country with such a strong Christian tradition has become a country where it is hard to speak about your faith."

'Their loss'

Nick Yates, of North Somerset Council, said: "Olive Jones has worked as a supply teacher, working with the North Somerset Tuition Service.

"A complaint has been made by a parent regarding Olive. This complaint is being investigated.

"To complete the investigation we need to speak to Olive and we have offered her a number of dates so this can happen.

"At the moment we are waiting for her to let us know which date is convenient for her."

In February a community nurse, Caroline Petrie, also from Weston-super-Mare and a friend of Olive Jones, was suspended from her job for offering to pray for a patient.

She was later reinstated by the health trust.

Speaking about her friend's case, Mrs Petrie said: "All Olive wants to do is help, she sometimes cries over those children and calls me to pray with her over the phone for them.

"This is a total shock, she is an amazing maths teacher so it really is their loss."

Mrs Jones, who has been a teacher for more than 20 years, trained at Aberystwyth University in Wales.

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